Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 03/27/2017
Format: 03/27/2017
Dialysis Clinic, Inc. v. Kevin Medley, et al
M2017-00269-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Appellants appeal the trial court’s denial of their motion to recuse on the ground that the trial court conducted an impermissible ex parte communication with counsel for the opposing party. The dispute in this case stems from Appellants’ pursuit of several documents that the opposing party claimed were privileged. In the course of hearing proof on the claimed privilege, the trial court announced its intention to conduct an ex parte hearing concerning the documents with only the opposing party present. Appellants did not object to the hearing. After the hearing was conducted, however, Appellants moved to recuse the trial judge on the basis that he had engaged in prohibited ex parte communications. The trial court promptly denied the recusal motion. Discerning no error, we affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/27/17
In Re Proceeding To Enforce Judgment Against National Partitions, Inc.
E2016-00339-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Moyers

American Plastics Technologies, Inc. (APT) and RAO Design, International, Inc. (RDI) (collectively the Plaintiffs) brought this action in the trial court seeking to enroll an Illinois judgment against National Partitions (NP). The judgment had been awarded by the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. NP filed an answer questioning the jurisdiction of the Illinois court. NP coupled its answer with a counterclaim asserting that the Plaintiffs had been guilty of the initial breach of the contract. Following a hearing, the trial court decreed registration of the Illinois judgment and ultimately dismissed NP‘s counterclaim. NP appeals. We affirm

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/27/17
Bobby Murray, et al. v. Dennis Miracle, et al.
E2015-00766-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Frank V. Williams, III

This is the third appeal in this suit; on remand from the prior appeal the court considered whether a discovery sanction previously imposed upon Plaintiffs was reasonable and the amount of damages to be awarded Defendants for defending the previous appeal, which was deemed frivolous. The trial court upheld the discovery sanction and awarded Defendants $8,488.50 in damages for the prior appeal. Plaintiffs appeal, contending that the trial court abused its discretion in affirming the prior sanction and in making the award for the frivolous appeal. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court; we declare this appeal frivolous and remand the case for a determination of damages.

Roane County Court of Appeals 03/27/17
In Re Lukis B.
M2016-00357-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen
The father appeals the circuit court’s adjudication that his child is dependent and neglected due to the father’s mental illness and paranoid behavior, which make the father unfit to properly care for his child. The father contends the circuit court erred in determining that, at the time of trial, his child was dependent and neglected. Finding the evidence clearly and convincingly supports the circuit court’s ruling, we affirm.
 
Maury County Court of Appeals 03/24/17
Mrs. Bobby Patterson v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01498-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner Robert N. Hibbett
The Appellant appeals the dismissal of a complaint filed in the Tennessee Claims Commission. Because the record does not support the Claims Commission’s grounds for dismissing the case, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.
 
Court of Appeals 03/24/17
James R. Goan et al. v. Billy B. Mills
E2016-01206-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

Plaintiff James R. Goan’s mail delivery vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Billy B. Mills as Plaintiff was delivering mail. The Plaintiff and his wife, Judy Goan, sued Mills. During settlement negotiations, Plaintiffs offered to settle for $100,000, the limits of Defendant’s insurance policy. Defendant accepted the offer on December 4, 2013. Over a year later, Defendant filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement. The Plaintiffs opposed the motion, arguing that there had been no meeting of the minds and no enforceable agreement. The trial court enforced the settlement agreement. The Plaintiffs appeal. We affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 03/24/17
In Re Charles A.
E2016-01757-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

This is a termination of parental rights case. Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to the minor child on the grounds of abandonment and persistence of conditions. Because the record does not contain an adjudicatory order of dependency and neglect, we reverse the ground of persistence of conditions. We affirm the termination of Mother’s parental rights on the ground of abandonment and on the trial court’s finding that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 03/24/17
In Re: Hailey O., Et Al.
E2016-01657-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin
The father of two children appeals the termination of his parental rights on the grounds of
abandonment by failure to visit them within the four month period preceding his
incarceration and by engaging in conduct prior to his incarceration that exhibits a wanton
disregard for the welfare of the children. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment in all
respects.
Knox County Court of Appeals 03/23/17
In Re Ashton V.
M2016-00842-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry R. Brown
This appeal arises from a juvenile court’s modification of a primary residential parent designation. The mother appeals the juvenile court’s findings that a material change in circumstance had occurred and that a change in the primary residential parent was in the child’s best interest. The mother also challenges the juvenile court’s denial of her Rule 60.01 motion. Upon review, we conclude that the juvenile court erred in relying on a report that was not entered into evidence at the hearing, but the error was harmless. Even excluding the report, the evidence does not preponderate against the juvenile court’s findings that a material change in circumstance had occurred and that modification of the primary residential parent designation was in the child’s best interest. We further conclude that the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in denying the mother’s Rule 60.01 motion.
 
Sumner County Court of Appeals 03/22/17
Joe Patton Rogers, et al. v. Bradley Dean Hadju, et al.
W2016-00850-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree

Appellants filed this lawsuit against Appellees for damages resulting from the alleged negligence of Appellees’ subcontractor. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees, ruling that they could not be vicariously liable for the subcontractor’s negligence because the uncontroverted facts conclusively established that the subcontractor was an independent contractor. We affirm.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 03/22/17
Associates Asset Management, LLC v. Angela Blackburn
W2016-00801-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James R. Newsom

This is a breach of contract case. After Appellant purchased a package of default loans, which contained Appellee’s second mortgage note, Appellant waited almost four years to file suit against Appellee for breach of contract. Appellee raised laches as an affirmative defense. The trial court held that gross laches applied to bar Appellant’s lawsuit. We conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in applying gross laches to bar Appellant’s claim in that Appellee’s injuries were only economic, and Appellee failed to pursue her claims for predatory lending, misrepresentation, and/or lender misconduct. Reversed and remanded.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/22/17
State of Tennessee, ex rel., Jamie Joy Williams v. Deadrick Donnell Woods, Sr.
W2016-00935-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge David S. Walker

This is a child support action involving one child, who was born in 1995 and had reached the age of majority by the time of trial. Upon the father’s voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, the trial court entered an order of legitimation in April 1996. The State of Tennessee (“the State”), acting on behalf of the mother, filed a petition to modify a child support order in April 2002. The father filed a motion to dismiss, and the State subsequently withdrew the petition because no prior child support order had been established. The mother then filed a petition for child support in September 2014. Following a bench trial before a special judge, the trial court established the father’s retroactive child support obligation in the amount of $79,647.00, giving credit to the father for $59,229.00 he previously had paid toward the child’s support and expenses. The court incorporated three income shares worksheets representing three different time periods during the child’s minority. The father has appealed, asserting, inter alia, that the trial court erred by finding that the child had resided with the mother for 285 days per year during the time period of January 1, 2010, through May 31, 2014, because the child resided with the mother’s stepfather on weekdays while attending high school. To correct an apparent mathematical error in the judgment, we modify the number of months for which the first income shares worksheet is to be applied from eighty-one to ninetytwo and the number of months for which the third income shares worksheet is to be applied from sixty-four to fifty-three, resulting in a total reduction in the father’s retroactive child support obligation from $79,647.00 to $74,818.00. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/21/17
Quinton Clovis v. Tennessee Human Rights Commissions
M2016-01534-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman
This appeal arises from a complaint filed with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission in which Plaintiff alleged he was denied public accommodation at the Metropolitan Public Library in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 4-21-301 and -501. More specifically, Plaintiff contended that the Library discriminated against him based on his Christian beliefs and in retaliation for filing a previous religious discrimination complaint against the Library. After conducting an investigation, the Commission found no reasonable basis for Plaintiff’s claim. Plaintiff appealed the Commission’s decision to the Davidson County Chancery Court. Following a hearing, the chancery court upheld the decision of the Commission. This appeal followed. We
affirm.
Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/21/17
Clayton Eddy Powers v. A&W Supply, Inc.
E2016-01489-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This appeal arose from a contract dispute between the plaintiff employee and the defendant corporation regarding shares of corporate stock. The parties signed an agreement in June 1993, which provided that the plaintiff would become vested with the right to receive two and one-half percent of the total number of issued and outstanding shares of the corporation’s capital stock so long as the plaintiff remained an employee in good standing with the corporation from the date of said agreement until the vesting date of December 31, 2001. It is undisputed that the plaintiff remained an employee in good standing with the corporation on the vesting date. Following the vesting date, the corporation never delivered stock certificates to the plaintiff or recognized the plaintiff as a shareholder within the company. The corporation terminated the plaintiff’s employment in October 2014, and in November 2014, the plaintiff made his first inquiry about his ownership interest in the stock to which he was entitled under the agreement. The defendant company denied that the plaintiff owned any stock in the company. The plaintiff thereafter filed an action against the corporation, seeking specific performance, declaratory judgment, and damages resulting from breach of contract. The plaintiff filed a motion for partial summary judgment, requesting a determination that the plaintiff was automatically vested in two and one-half percent of the total number of shares of the corporation’s capital stock. The defendant also filed a motion for summary judgment, averring that because the corporation never took action to transfer the shares of capital stock to the plaintiff on the vesting date, the plaintiff’s cause of action accrued in 2001, rendering the plaintiff’s present action time barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court determined that the plaintiff was vested with ownership of the shares on the vesting date and that the plaintiff’s action was not barred by the statute of limitations. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/21/17
Steven Yen v. University of Tennessee Knoxville
M2016-00875-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle
This is an appeal of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s termination of a tenured faculty member. After the University terminated Appellant, he appealed the validity of his termination to an administrative hearing officer pursuant to the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. Following a contested hearing, the hearing officer upheld the University’s termination of Appellant. Appellant then petitioned the chancery court to reverse the decision of the hearing officer. The chancery court held that there was substantial and material evidence in the record to support the hearing officer’s decision to affirm the termination of Appellant’s employment and tenure. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgment of the chancery court.
 
Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/21/17
In re Conner C., et al.
M2016-01669-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

Mother appeals the circuit court’s dismissal of her de novo appeal of the juvenile court’s dependency and neglect order.  We agree with the circuit court that the juvenile court’s adjudicatory order was not a final order subject to appeal to the circuit court.

Franklin County Court of Appeals 03/20/17
Old Republic Life Insurance Company v. Roberta Woody, et al
E2016-00844-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

This case involves the interpretation and application of the prior suit pending doctrine. Old Republic Life Insurance Company (Insurer) brought this action in the McMinn County Circuit Court (the trial court) as subrogee of Darrell King, its insured, who had been injured in an accident. King’s attorneys filed three separate notices of appearance on his behalf. King also moved to intervene in his Insurer’s suit, but later withdrew his motion. Still later, Insurer moved to join King as a necessary and indispensible party. The trial court granted the motion. More than two and half years after Insurer’s complaint was filed, King filed a complaint in Davidson County seeking compensation for his injuries. The trial court granted King’s motion to dismiss this action based on the prior suit pending doctrine. We hold that, under the prior suit pending doctrine, the trial court, McMinn County Circuit Court, is the proper forum. We vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for futher proceedings.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 03/17/17
In Re Promise A., et al.
M2015-02144-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy K. Barnes

The Department of Children’s Services received custody of two children as a result of a petition it filed to have the children declared dependent and neglected; the children’s mother had died, and they were unable to be placed with their father due to uncertainty regarding his paternity of the children and housing arrangement.  After custody was granted to the Department and a permanency plan developed, the father established his paternity; the permanency plan required that he continue to address his housing and employment situations, among other matters.  Eleven months after the children came into custody, the Department filed a petition to terminate Father’s rights on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit or support, abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, and persistence of conditions.  After a trial, the court found that clear and convincing evidence existed as to all grounds and that termination was in the best interest of the children. Father appeals, contending that the evidence preponderates against various findings of the court, that the evidence does not support a conclusion that any of the grounds were established, or that termination is in the children’s best interest.  Inasmuch as the children were not removed from the Father’s home at the time they came into the Department’s custody, we reverse the judgment terminating the Father’s rights on the grounds of persistence of conditions and abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home; in all other respects, the judgment is affirmed. 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 03/16/17
Kenneth A. Parigin et al. v. M. Shane Mills
E2016-00640-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

The dispositive issue in this appeal is whether the defendant, who was actively involved in the formation of a limited liability company, is a member of the company. The trial court held that the defendant’s prospective membership interest was contingent on making a financial contribution of $180,000 plus business equipment, and because he failed to make the required contributions, he was not a member. We affirm.

Court of Appeals 03/16/17
In re Braxton L.
E2017-00233-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brad L. Davidson

This is an appeal by the appellant, Jessica L., from an order terminating her parental rights to the minor child, Braxton L. The order terminating the appellant’s parental rights was entered on December 29, 2016. The Notice of Appeal was not filed until February 2, 2017, more than thirty (30) days from the date of entry of the final order. The Attorney General, on behalf of the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, has filed a motion to dismiss this appeal based upon the untimely filing of the Notice of Appeal. Because the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal and grant the motion to dismiss.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 03/15/17
State of Tennessee, ex rel., James Frederick Roberts v. Elizabeth Dale Crafton
W2016-00550-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dan H. Michael

The Notice of Appeal filed by James Frederick Roberts (“Father”) states that Father is appealing from the February 1, 2016 order of the Juvenile Court for Shelby County (“the Juvenile Court”). The February 1, 2016 order, however, is not a final judgment, and the case remains pending in the Juvenile Court. As such, we lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal, and it is dismissed without prejudice.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/14/17
Xingkui Guo v. Woods & Woods, PP
M2016-01435-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.
A former client sued his former attorney for breach of contract, and the trial court entered judgment in favor of the client for $3,500. Because the trial court found that the attorney had “justifiable reasons” for terminating the contract, and because the contract provided that the $7,000 set fee paid by the client at the beginning of the representation was earned upon payment, we have determined that the trial court erred in entering judgment in favor of the client.
 
Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/14/17
Gala Johnson-Murray, et al. v. Rodney Burns, et al.
M2016-00431-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

Nieces of the decedent contest the validity of a quitclaim deed and the decedent's will on the ground they were the result of undue influence exerted upon the decedent by her stepson and his wife. The quitclaim deed conveyed the decedent's real property to herself, her stepson, and his wife as joint tenants with right of survivorship. The will bequeathed the decedent's entire estate to her stepson. Following a jury trial, the jury found that the deed and will were both valid. The nieces appeal, contending there is no material evidence to support the jury's verdict. They also contend the trial court erred by instructing the jury that the stepson, who was the decedent's attorney-in-fact, had the authority to sign the will and deed on behalf of the decedent. We have determined that the record contains material evidence to support the jury's verdict. As for the jury instructions, the trial court erred by instructing the jury that the stepson had the authority to sign the will on behalf of the decedent as her attorney-in-fact because it would not comply with mandatory requirements of the Tennessee Execution of Wills Act. With regard to whether the stepson could sign the deed on behalf of the decedent, the answer and jury instruction were incomplete to such an extent as to constitute an erroneous instruction. Nevertheless, having considered the jury instruction in its entirety, we are unable to conclude that these errors more probably than not affected the outcome of the verdict. Therefore, we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 03/14/17
Southwind Residential Properties Association, Inc. v. Kelvin Ford
W2016-01169-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

The association obtained a favorable judgment for unpaid assessments against property owner of 1.6 lots as well as attorney’s fees in the trial court. Property owner appeals. We vacate the trial court’s attorney’s fee award in favor of the association and remand for consideration of the reasonableness factors as outlined in the Tennessee Rules of Professional Responsibility. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects. Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/14/17
Denise Elliott v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00392-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner Robert N. Hibbett

This appeal arises from a claim against the State by the driver of a motor vehicle who seeks damages resulting from a single-car accident. Claimant contends the accident was the proximate result of the State’s negligence in the design, construction, and maintenance of the roadway where the accident occurred for which the State is liable pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307(a)(1)(I). Following a trial, the Claims Commissioner found that Claimant failed to prove the State was negligent in the design, construction, or maintenance of the roadway; therefore, Claimant failed to prove a claim for negligence under Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307(a)(1)(I). Finding the evidence does not preponderate against the Claims Commission’s findings, we affirm.

Court of Appeals 03/13/17